In an effort to reduce injuries and deaths related to firearms, University Health System will distribute more than 17,000 gun locks to San Antonio residents starting in November.
The initiative is part of a county-wide partnership among University Health System’s Injury Prevention Program, the Bexar County Commissioners Court, and the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, to implement the Be Smart campaign, launched by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to educate the community both about the number of child deaths resulting from gunshot wounds and how to responsibly store guns.
“We have seen an increase in unintentional firearm discharges where a child gets hold of a firearm that wasn’t secured,” said Mandy Fulz, program coordinator at UHS, which operates the only Level I pediatric trauma center in South Texas. “Seeing increases in firearm injuries and death, we are working to provide resources to the community and education about how to keep kids safe.”
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff’s office provided the $25,000 necessary to purchase gun locks, which will be distributed by UHS at events and be available for pickup at locations throughout the city.
The Sheriff’s Department is providing up to $25,000 for an education campaign utilizing the Be Smart campaign’s five steps to prevent shootings by children. This includes securing all guns in homes and vehicles, modeling responsible behavior around guns, and being proactive about educating other gun owners on the importance of securing their weapons.
“From 2006 to 2016, 6,885 people died from accidental shootings nationwide, and of those, 2,589 were children,” Wolff said. “And during that time, more than 12,000 children were injured by guns.”
In late September, a teenage boy was killed on the far North Side of San Antonio when a gun he and his friend were playing with accidentally discharged. Earlier that month, a teenage girl on the Northwest Side was shot in the stomach at a pool party when another teen accidentally fired a gun while showing it to friends.
Wolff also noted that 3,881 guns were stolen from cars in Bexar County over a recent two-year time span.
Wolff said that the County has been working closely with Moms Demand Action to determine the best way to distribute the gun safety locks locally, and information on pickup locations will be available online soon.
VIA Metropolitan Transit also will participate by wrapping buses with messaging that promotes gun safety.
“What’s important is that we get people to understand that they have got to secure their guns,” Wolff said. “And while the gun lock is certainly part of it, the educational component [through advertising] and outreach events is a reminder to people saying to keep them in a secure lockbox.”
To further reduce gun violence, the County is advocating for enhanced background checks and prohibiting person-to-person gun sales, which are not regulated as are in-store sales.
In 2016, 93 percent of prison inmates who used guns to commit crimes in the U.S. bought the weapon from a stranger, Wolff said.
“Educational programs are necessary,” he said. “Enhanced gun legislation is necessary. There are too many accidental shootings. And there are too many bad people still getting access to guns.”